Will outfield injuries open playoff door for rookie Almora?

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Albert Almora Jr.

PITTSBURGH – Rookie Albert Almora Jr.’s chances of making the Cubs’ postseason roster seem to be improving by the hour this week in Pittsburgh.

For better or worse.

When Chris Coghlan limped off the field in the fifth inning Wednesday night with a “mild” left ankle sprain, he became the second banged-up outfielder on the projected playoff roster as the Cubs eye next week’s postseason opener.

Coghlan, who was hurt trying unsuccessfully make a leaping catch against the left-field wall, is a long shot to play in the Cubs’ final four regular-season games – although manager Joe Maddon said that doesn’t necessarily preclude a spot on the playoff roster.

“The word ‘mild’ was used five to six times when I was told about it,” Maddon said.

Coghlan joins Jorge Soler (sore right side) on the suddenly questionable list of players heading toward roster-decision time.

The next man up in either case would be Almora, who, coincidentally, took over for Coghlan in Wednesday’s fifth.

“I’m here to enjoy this ride,” Almora said when asked about a shot at being in the playoffs. “If they call my name, I’ll help however I can.”

Until this week, Almora – who might be the Cubs’ best defensive outfielder – appeared to be on the outside of the postseason roster bubble.

“This kid, he’s a baseball player. He’s not intimidated by stuff. He’s not afraid of stuff,” said manager Joe Maddon, who acknowledged even before Coghlan’s injury that Soler’s health could affect the final spot or two on the playoff roster.

Soler, who left a game because of the soreness more than a week ago, still was bothered two games into his return and stayed back in Chicago for another MRI, which showed “no abnormalities,” the club said. Maddon said he anticipates Soler playing during the Cubs’ final regular-season series in Cincinnati this weekend.

Almora, who walked and scored in his first trip to the plate Wednesday, is hitting .287 with 13 extra-base hits in 108 big-league at-bats this season.

Notes: Pirates first baseman Jason Jaso’s seventh-inning triple off Pedro Strop gave Jaso the first cycle in PNC Park history. … Strop, by the way, preceded that triple by hitting Cub nemesis Sean Rodriguez on the butt with a fastball, eliciting warnings from the umpire to both benches. Addison Russell had been hit in the top of the seventh. … Rookie left-hander Rob Zastryzny makes his first big-league start Thursday against the Pirates. He has a 1.42 ERA in seven relief appearances.

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